I have always been curious…
about how Thailand reigns to be a must-see and the most visited country in Asia. Is it because tourists flock to visit their temples? Is it because of their religion or because of the immersion of diverse cultures? or tourists only wants to grasp the taste of authentic Thai cuisine? My curiosity got me excited which pushed me to explore more about this country.
For my first Indochina journey, I chose Bangkok as my gateway. And tell you, I was not only surprised but I was also amazed.
The flight from Manila was about 3 hours, and we reached Bangkok at around 1:00pm in their local time. It took us about an hour to get out from the airport, because their immigration takes time.
If you are traveling to Bangkok for the first time and have no definite plans of where to go or what to do; I suggest that you prepare them before you travel. Else, find a certified travel agency in the airport and talk to their agent. That’s what we did.
We made our way to Samsen Road. It is a street stretched with restaurants, hostels, silk and textile shops. Did I mention that it is just a walking distance to the famous tourist destination? The Khao San Road.
Khao San Road is a famous destination flocked by tourists. Authentic Thai street foods are positioned in almost every part of the road. Most food stalls serves the specialty noodle dish of Thailand which is the “Pad Thai” and the sweet dessert “Sticky Rice”.
It was my first time to witness an array of rare choices that are edible and ready to eat. I took the taste dare and munched on a toasted scorpion. Crunchy!
Aside from munching on scorpions, we saw numerous stalls selling clothing wear with different colors and patterns. It is impossible to leave the market without shopping especially if you are good in bargaining (I have mastered this art for years).
At night, the road transforms into a carnival where the crowd walks merrily. We then settled for the night to celebrate the beginning of my first stop of my Indochina tour.
With our minds and thoughts filled with excitement, we prepared ourselves for the full downtown Bangkok experience.
Lucky for us the tour includes transportation and a tour guide interpreter, her name was Dew.Our first destination was the Grand Palace, the heart of Bangkok. Where the King of Thailand officially resides including the Kings before him.
Tall golden temples surround the area forming a wondrous site…
The scenery is so perfect worthy for a postcard!
The palace is divided into two zones; The Temple of The Emerald Buddha and The Royal Residence. At the time of our visit, the temple was close to the public due to security reasons.
Fun fact about this famous landmark: It is a venue when hosting ceremonies and royal banquets to state affairs and foreign guests of the King. The palace serves as the setting for royal ceremonies.
Furthermore, this area is officially considered to be the place of mourning when members of the royal family and high-ranking officials passed away before they are being cremated, including the former kings.
Unique color of each temple flourish the Grand Palace, making it an exquisite view. An hour in this palace could be more, if not for the bad weather!
The tour around the Grand Palace made us see the different kinds of temples from around the world. It was a museum of artifacts, statues and murals showcasing how rich Bangkok is with its arts and of its history.
We strolled and enjoyed looking at the monuments and shrines which date back to the early history of Thailand and even during the war. Although there were lots of tourists, we managed to get decent pictures around the temple.
To date there are 40, 717 temples in Bangkok alone not mentioning the whole country of Thailand.
We set off for the second part of our tour; a cruise in the Chao Praya River.
The queue was quite long, but with the advantage of having a travel agency we were able to pass through the row quickly.
The river was murky due to the heavy rain the night before. As we sat at the edge of the boat, the river cruise passed by to various iconic and famous temples of the city. Here are some snaps I took during the tour.
There are temples that are still under construction and the completed ones adds up to the beautiful skyline of Bangkok.
River cruising is the best way to tour around Bangkok in 30 minutes and there is no traffic.
As we got off the boat, we headed towards our next destination,
For our third destination, the agency brought us to Thailand Gold Jewelry. The workers showed us how they make jewelries and also showed us the precious Thai gems that they are using. In making our way to the complex, an exhibit of Thailand’s exquisite jewelry was displayed inside a room for our eyes to feast. Since we could not take photos inside, our only photo would be by the door.
It was the end of our tour since we opted only for the half day tour, we then asked Dew (the tour guide) to drop us to the best shopping place in town.
Dew brought us to Pratunam, the so- called “Shopping District” of Bangkok. This is where we had our lunch.
Platinum Mall is a market flocked with enthusiastic shoppers, all eager to purchase items for a good price. Since Bangkok is one of the manufacturing countries where majority of the world’s fabric and textile originates from, most of the items have it sold in this mall and can also be found in some shopping destinations in the city.
After making a few rounds around the mall, we decided to cross the bridge and go sightseeing around the area of Pratunam.
We stayed in the place until 5pm, and had the sudden urge to leave because the rain was pouring non-stop. It took us an hour and 30 minutes from Pratunam back to Samsen Road, due to the heavy traffic and flooded streets.
Since the night was still early, we took a tour around Soi Cowboy road. This is one of the red light districts of Bangkok and was recommended as an appropriate and safe place to tour during night time.
The Next Day (3rd Day)…
We left at 6am to depart for the province of Kanchanaburi. This was a whole day event as the agency prepared a list of exciting activities that we would encounter.
The land trip was about 4 hours including two stops along the way. On the first stop we met up with our tour guide who lives nearby.
First activity was at the Damnoen Floating Market in Ratchaburi province.
This is a community filled with motor boats living along the River Kwai. It is a market town of stalls where vendors are selling souvenirs and gift items aboard wooden boats.
We were given an hour to go around the market, and we took the opportunity to get on a motor boat and embark on a ride around. It was not that easy to get on the boat because the distribution of weight had to be equal. I cannot imagine what would happen if the boat tilted. But we assumed that the driver knew what he needs to do to prevent this from happening.
The vendors would usually call out on us and expect that we purchase from them, even if you are not showing interest.
There were choices of wooden statues, authentic Thai silk & textile, jewelry bands and even food and beverages. The floating market had everything for the tourists.
After the boat ride, we decided to go around the area and scout for other good finds. We compared that the ones sold on the ground are cheaper than the ones sold in the floating market. It was a good thing that we were not tempted to buy the items sold with costly prices.
Aside from souvenir items, we saw exotic pets being used for exhibit. What made me sad was that other vendors are showing these animals like the baby lemur and the snake. These vendors encourage you to touch these animals but with a price. It was disturbing to see and I pity these animals.
Back on the road, we were set to have our lunch. We were disappointed because the itinerary mentioned a lunch buffet by the River Kwai. Instead, they brought us to an open cafeteria on a public highway. We insisted that the agency should be clear with the inclusions of the tour. Regardless, the food was good and it energized us for the next activity.
The second activity for the day was a visit to the JEATH or War Museum.
This was an old museum about the prisoners of war who built the death railway during the World War II. The museum displayed a replica of the prisoners of war (POW) memorabilia: statues, writings, scriptures and even weapons used during the Second World War.
I considered it to be unusual and unique museum because it presents the different episodes of the history of Thailand’s participation in the war. The statues inside the building create an eerie setting.
We were the only ones in the museum but we anticipated to make it one level up to discover more of the museum.
The JEATH museum is also located along River Kwai. There are several activities you can do along the river as well, but since we were running with time we only did the museum.
Beside the museum and along the River Kwai is the death railway. It amazes us that it still exist and being used as an active railway.
After our mini tour around the area, we refreshed ourselves with Thailand’s own milk tea and barbecue.
The third and last activity was the time to interact and bathe the elephants at the Chang Puak Camp. Aside from riding elephants we opted to choose bathing with elephants, and this is the right place to get to know more of these majestic creatures of Indochina.
The care taker of the camp directed us to a rocky road that passed by a prairie grass lawn shadowed by tall trees. Although we were met by the heat of the sun, the area was cool and breezy.
Upon arriving at the camp, there were four elephants waiting for us and probably eager to get in the river! We were instructed to change our outfits fit for the activity. In order to get to the river, participants must ride on the elephant. I hesitated to get on the elephant because I did not intend to ride on it. But the caretakers insisted that we should be on top of these gentle giants rather than walking along to prevent scaring them and being trampled on.
It was a three minute walk to the river, and we were grasping on our dear life trying not to look down. The elephant we rode was 13 years old and with an estimated height of 11 feet tall. I keep adjusting to the elephant’s range making sure that I sat comfortably. It was a good thing that the caretaker is with us to tame the gentle giants in going to the right directions.
In the river, we were instructed to hold firmly on our position riding on top of the elephants because we might be carried away by the current of the river. Our jolly elephant playfully moves around and calms down after giving him few scrubs.
Other elephants in the river entertain the spectators by trying to carry a person on its tusks while balancing on its own feet. It was pleasing to see these animals happily taking a bath and enjoying the company of humans and by seeing it up-close and personal is a memorable experience to keep for life.
Going back to the camp it took us ten minutes, since the elephants made stops by pulling and eating on tall grasses and vines along the way. They were effective in clearing our paths of bushes and tree barks.
At the end of the activity we were welcomed by a calf that is tender and playful. Treats were handed to us so we could feed the lovely animal. Not to mention the calf is photogenic.
We headed back to the city center that took us 3 hours and a half to arrive. We concluded our last night in the city Bangkok by celebrating at Khao San Road.
My Bangkok adventure was a start-up of my Indochina journey. The country made me fall in love with Bangkok’s cuisine, the hospitality of the people, being immersed with cultural and religious ethics and lastly a close encounter with the elephants.There could have been more things I could have done but I know I will definitely be coming back to conquer more of Thailand.
Onwards to my next adventure,